The impact of analytics on our daily lives can sometimes feel abstract and indirect. Even important decisions made using analytics – like an employer deciding whether to give you an interview – often take place behind a screen, in a location far away from us. Data-driven decisions like these are no less important to us, but I’ve always been interested in the more direct application of analytics. This is analytics at the edge, deployed in real time to solve real problems for real people.
There is no better place to see the real-world potential of analytics than on the front line of our emergency services. Out in the field, access to relevant information can be the difference between life and death. Fortunately, we can get this insight to remote workers like police officers and investigators faster than ever using a combination of mobile analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and data visualisation.
AI that fits in your pocket
One of the most exciting fields in analytics currently is AI, in particular, a branch of AI called machine learning. The true value of this technology lies in its ability to generate tremendous value by unlocking the information, patterns and behaviours hidden from human eyes in massive volumes of data.
However, while you can build and refine a machine learning model to hit peak performance, it’ll do little good unless it can be deployed where it matters most. It needs to operate and share valuable insight where the decisions are made. This isn’t only back in the command centre where strategy is made. It’s out on the beat where a split-second decision by an officer can help to save a life.
SAS® Mobile Investigator
This is the reason my team and I built SAS Mobile Investigator, an application that communicates tasks with caseworkers, investigators and officers in the field. It also notifies users about risks and concerns regarding their caseloads or coverage areas and raises reports on the go. SAS Mobile Investigator can feed data into AI and also use its outputs. So AI processes can generate alerts, tasks and data that SAS presents to the user. Similarly, data created from SAS Mobile Investigator can be fed into AI solutions to derive better results.
To access the app, all users need to do is install it on their smartphone. This means that no matter how far away they are from the office, officers and investigators always have access to the insight, reports and support they need to get the job done.
If that still seems intangible, here is how it works in action. Previously, police officers working in the Child Protection Unit (CPU) would have to return to the office anytime they needed to access further information about at-risk children to whom they’d been assigned. With SAS Mobile Investigator, all they need to do is open the app on their phone. From here, they can access CPU systems in order to determine the most vulnerable children on their beat. And they have all the relevant background information easily at hand. AI techniques can even analyse which child is most likely to be acutely at risk. This means officers can check on vulnerable children in a timely manner.
The true value of analytics
When we have data and insight generated by AI at our fingertips, it radically changes how we make decisions. It may cause front-line officers to reassess their original approach. Instead of visiting the next child on their schedule – which is based on hours of office research – they have the insight to go to the child who faces the greatest risk at that very moment. Real-time decisions like these can make all the difference. Ultimately, analytics helps us make better, more accurate and effective decisions, and society as a whole can benefit.One of the most exciting fields in analytics currently is AI, and a particular branch of AI called machine learning. The true value of this technology lies in its ability to generate tremendous value by unlocking the information. Click To Tweet
When you make analytics tangible by putting it directly into the hands of our protectors and public servants, you realise its true value. We shouldn't lock analytics away in a data centre or in the cloud, accessible and understandable only to those with expertise in data science. When everyone has access to the power of analytics combined with their own expertise in their field, everyone’s job becomes easier and more productive.
For more on my story and the work that made SAS Mobile Investigator a reality, watch the video below.